Michelin Guide 2020: a year of surprises

by Tom Shingler7 October 2019

A new three-star for London, plenty of wins for Ireland and a focus on smaller restaurants outside of the capital marked a change of pace for Michelin – but there were plenty of surprises along the way. Join us as we take a closer look at the results of the Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland 2020.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Tom Shingler is the former editor of Great British Chefs.

Tom Shingler was the editor at Great British Chefs until 2021, having first joined Great British Chefs in 2015.

Well, our predictions for the new Michelin-starred restaurants for 2020 were a bit off. We only managed to identify six correctly – although we certainly weren’t alone. It seems Michelin has changed tack a little bit when it comes to which restaurants it deems worthy of inclusion, focusing on smaller, tucked away restaurants throughout the UK rather than the ones everyone expects.

One of the biggest shocks had to be the lack of a star for Tom Brown’s Cornerstone. If anyone was a shoe in for a star, it was him (or so we thought). Claude Bosi at Bibendum was also hotly tipped for a third star (as was Clare Smyth’s Core), but the new three-star award went to Sketch (Lecture Room & Library) – something very few (if any) predicted correctly. Whilst the cooking and talent on show at Sketch is obviously very high, it makes you wonder what the likes of Bibendum, Core, Restaurant Sat Bains, L’Enclume, Moor Hall and Midsummer House have to do to get that coveted third star. In our eyes, they’re all performing at the very highest level.

This year was clearly the Republic of Ireland’s time to shine – two new two-star restaurants (the much-loved Greenhouse in Dublin, along with Aismir, which shot in straight to two stars after opening just five months ago), plus three new one-star restaurants. In Northern Ireland, Belfast gained a new Michelin-starred restaurant, bringing the city’s total to three. It’s clear that the Irish food scene is having a moment, finally getting a deserved time in the spotlight. You could tell how happy those in the audience were for the Greenhouse’s second star in particular, suggesting this was a long time coming.

Niall Keating won a second star for his highly skilled (and Michelin-star-friendly) cooking at The Dining Room in Wiltshire, while French fine dining institution La Dame de Pic gained a second star for London. Michelin has always been criticised for favouring French cooking above everything else, which certainly fits with Anne Sophie-Pic gaining a second star at her restaurant, but Niall Keating is a fantastic flagbearer for modern British cuisine and a deserving winner. However, we still think Gareth Ward at Ynyshir is just as deserving of a second star.

When it came to the new one-star restaurants, things started getting a little interesting. A lot of the new restaurants were outside London (which is definitely a good thing for the UK’s food scene); many of them very small operations with just a handful of tables. It’s obviously easier to cook at a higher standard for a smaller number of covers, and perhaps none of these restaurants were predicted a star simply because they’re quietly doing their thing, rather than spending huge amounts on PR and hype (often a necessity when trying to stand out in places like the capital). We were very happy to see Manchester finally get a star thanks to Mana, and were particularly happy that Alchemilla, Pensons, The Angel at Hetton, Mãos, Artichoke and Isle of Eriska got a nod.

The most notable deletion from the guide was The Araki, which went from three stars to zero after head chef Mitsuhiro Araki returned to Tokyo. Many expected it to lose its three-star status, but to not be included in the guide at all wasn’t what a lot of us thought would happen. It was also sad to see highly respected restaurants such as The West House, Tyddyn Llan, Galvin at Windows, The Yorke Arms and Gidleigh Park – all of which have a long history with Michelin – lose their stars.

Overall it was a hugely successful night for Ireland, while in the UK the disappearance of The Araki meant it lost one three-star yet gained a new (and unexpected) one in the process thanks to Sketch. It’s fantastic that the smaller, relatively unheard of restaurants that received the lion’s share of the new single stars will now enjoy national attention, but there are still plenty of things we disagree with Michelin about. This happens every year, however, and eating out is such a subjective thing that there are always going to be differences in opinion. Many feel Michelin loses its relevance every time the awards are announced, and that may be the case – but the fact that the whole hospitality industry awaits the announcement without fail proves it still holds a huge amount of clout.

Whatever you think of the awards, you can’t deny that every one of the restaurants that won a star this year are going the extra mile to turn food into something truly special. From everyone at Great British Chefs, congratulations to all the new winners of Michelin stars for 2020!

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